The Key Ideas of the Enlightenment Essay examples

The Key Ideas of the Enlightenment Essay examples

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This essay will be examining the key concepts of the ‘Enlightenment’ also known as “The Age of Reason“ that occurred from the 16th and 17th century, before considering the manner in which it helped to shape the sociological view on societies and how it has linked to the birth of sociology. Before doing so I will give a brief historical context.
All the profound questioning that emerged during the Enlightenment came out of the undermining of the old Catholic authority over all social truth that was produced by the Reformation when Luther (1483 –1546) and others had challenged this over-arching authority with the idea that each of us had our own personal relationship with God. This meant that we had to turn to ourselves and use our own reason to decide what was moral, what was good, right, rational, and so forth. And suddenly some very profound questions about the self and society emerged as if we were looking at these problems for the first time since Ancient Greece. (Scott, 2005 pp. 9–11).The religious discussions were providing opportunities to raise new secular questions: as Porter (1990, p.73) wrote, “The Enlightenment was the era which saw the emergence of a secular intelligentsia large enough and powerful enough for the first time to challenge the clergy”. Mostly, these questions were rational interrogations on ethics, politics, society, knowledge, the self and their natural rights.
The enlightenment was famously the age of reason and the rational foundations for many things were being considered. Descartes asked the sceptical question – how do I know that I exist? After some self-questioning he concluded, famously, “I think therefore I am” (Discourse on the Method and Principles of Philosophy - Mediations), while Imma...


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Durkheim, E (1895). The Rules of Sociological Method. Paris: The Free Press.
Foucault, M. (2007). The Politics of Truth. Lotringer, Sylvère (Ed.), London: Semiotext(e).
Garrad, G. (2006). American Behavioural Scientist. The Enlightenment and its Enemies. 49(5), 664-680.
Hall, S. and Gieben, B. (1992). Formations of Modernity. Basingstoke: Polity Press.
Hyland, P, Gomez, O, Greensides, F, (2006). The enlightenment, a sourcebook and reader. Routledge: Oxen.
Available at: Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy http://www.iep.utm.edu/soc-cont/ (Accessed 10 December 2011).
Levine, F.H, (2006). Social class and stratification: Classic statements and theoretical debates. 2nd Ed. Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield’s publishers, INC.
Schech, S. and Haggis, J. (2000).Thinking about Culture and Development. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

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